This poem was published in Alaska Women Speak‘s winter issue 2015. The theme was “talking over coffee or tea.”
The samovar placed on the kitchen table
is a poor replica of babushka’s samovar,
the silver one with the tiny teapot at the top
that held the strongest tea,
the tea she cautioned your tiny hand
not to touch,
not to hold.
Just watch, my devochka,
she would say,
as she poured the concentrated tea
into tiny china cups:
for you a little; for her a lot.
She would exhale the steam off her cup
like she was blowing off a potion,
like a spell casting you both back
to the old country,
the Good Russia of the tsars,
not the bad Russia where Lenin lived,
in the stories she would tell.
She takes you to the Samara of her youth,
when the tsar still lived
and the grand duchesses were the most
beautiful girls in the world,
as her tea cakes disappear
and your tea runs cold.
Today, your middle-aged hands fill
the teapot of your own samovar, far
less beautiful than babushka’s and made
of brass from new Russia.
You hope she doesn’t mind the cheap
imposter as you set two ceramic cups out,
and babushka’s spirit takes you to the
banks of the Volga just one more time.